Christmas, the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ is far too important to celebrate with a single day. We celebrate Christmas for a season that lasts until the Baptism of the Lord (which falls on Monday, January 9th this year). This season include the Epiphany of the Lord (which falls on Sunday, January 8th this year). We celebrate the first eight days of Christmas as an octave. Today, January 1st, concludes this octave. As the eighth day of the Octave of Christmas, we always celebrate the Solemnity Mary, Mother of God on this date.
It is also the World Day of Peace (see Pope Francis’ Message for today). It is also New Year’s Day on the secular calendar. Honoring Mary, we think about what a blessing it was for us that she said yes to being chosen to be the Mother of Jesus. Recognizing Jesus as the Son of God, consubstantial with the Father, we call Mary “Mother of God.” As the World Day of Peace, we seek the blessing of peace as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. As we recognize it as New Year’s Day, we ask for God to bless the new year.
Blessings as an important part of our faith. In today’s first reading from the Book of Numbers, The Lord instructs Moses as to how “Aaron and his sons“, the priests, are to bless the people.
“The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!”
What does it mean to bless someone or something? To bless a person is to invoke God’s divine care upon the person. We ask the Lord to keep the person safe. We ask the Lord to let his face shine upon that person so they may know his love.
To bless an object is to ask God to ensure that the object reminds us of him and/or brings us closer to him. We bless rosaries so that they help our prayers be fruitful. We bless a home asking that God’s presence be known there. We bless something by invoking God’s name upon it.
We ask God to bless the new year so that peace may come upon it. In asking God to bless the new year, we should never forget him. We show our appreciation for God’s blessings by offering our praise to him. We thank God for the blessings.
As we search for peace in the midst of our Christmas season, let us turn our eyes to our nativity scene. At the center of the scene is baby Jesus. Seeing Jesus fills our hearts with joy.
The shepherds were the first to hear the “good news of great joy…For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.” Filled with joy at this news, “The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.”
There, “they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed.” Jesus’ birth truly is “good news of great joy.” Well, actually it is not simply “good news.” It is the best news they could hear. 2,000 years later we continue to rejoice at the news of Jesus’ birth. Do we share the joy of Jesus’ birth with others?
Jesus’ birth changes things. As Paul writes to the Galatians, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Through this we are no longer slaves, we are children of God.
As we celebrate Christmas, we give glory and praise to God for sending Jesus, incarnate in the flesh, to save us.
Gazing up our nativity scene, and hearing the good news of great joy, we ask God to help us be like Mary who “kept all these things, reflecting them in our heart.” As we begin a new year, we ask God to bless the year in his divine love.